Ikea set for low-key opening

The popularity of do-it-yourself furniture among Thai consumers will increase significantly after the country’s worst floods in 50 years, according to the Swedish home furnishing giant Ikea.

Lars Svensson, the marketing manager of Ikano (Thailand), Ikea’s local operator, said the current flooding would change consumer preferences from built-in units to furniture with self-assembly.

“DIY and ready-to-move furniture will be a new trend, as it is easier to remove and reassemble,” he said yesterday.

When flooded, people need to move their furniture as quickly as possible. If the furniture is built-in, they have to leave it; if it is DIY, they can easily remove and move it away.

Ikea plans to open its first store tomorrow on Bang Na-Trat Road, sticking to its plan. But promotional activity has been toned down and ad spending of 3 million baht cut off.

“We believe everything will be back to normal early next year,” Mr Svensson said. “Our marketing plan remains the same for the next events like Christmas and New Year.”

Instead of holding a celebration for the store opening, Ikea has donated this budget to flood victims through the Mae Fah Luang Foundation. Ikea Thailand has donated 20 million baht to help those who are suffering from the floods.

In terms of flood impact, only one of Ikea’s suppliers in Thailand has been affected, its production base submerged.

Thai suppliers contribute 2-3% of the products available in the store. Ikea plans to increase the proportion of Thai-made products to a double-digit rate next year.

“If the flood is worse or throughout Bangkok, our store will remain open but the plan to have a second store may be reconsidered,” Mr Svensson said.

Ikea was prepared for the flood. It stocked food, water and power generators and made plans for employees to evacuate in case of flooding.

The Bang Na store held a test day Oct 29 when 7,500 people came to shop. From the test, Ikea learned that Thais knew the DIY concept well, instilling hope that this would become a trend in the country.

Ikea had expected 400,000 to 500,000 visitors for tomorrow’s official opening but now predicts 10% fewer.


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